Jennifer Rubin, Paul Mirengoff at Powerline, and Pete Wehner at National Review have all weighed in cogently on Joe Klein’s outrageous assertion, which he refuses to back down from, that “a great many Jewish neoconservatives–people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary–plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel.” Not only did Klein not back down, but he expanded his outrageous accusations:
You want evidence of divided loyalties? How about the “benign domino theory” that so many Jewish neoconservatives talked to me about–off the record, of course–in the runup to the Iraq war, the idea that Israel’s security could be won by taking out Saddam, which would set off a cascade of disaster for Israel’s enemies in the region? As my grandmother would say, feh! Do you actually deny that the casus belli that dare not speak its name wasn’t, as I wrote in February 2003, a desire to make the world safe for Israel? Why the rush now to bomb Iran, a country that poses some threat to Israel but none–for the moment–to the United States…unless we go ahead, attack it, and the mullahs unleash Hezbollah terrorists against us? Do you really believe the mullahs would stage a nuclear attack on Israel, destroying the third most holy site in Islam and killing untold numbers of Muslims? I am not ruling out the use of force against Iran–it may come to that–but you folks seem to embrace it gleefully.
Pete and Paul have already made the correct and obvious rejoinder that Israel was not particularly hankering for an invasion of Iraq. In fact most Israelis were skeptical all along of the chances of implanting democracy in Iraq, and Iraq was never their biggest security concern. Iran was. If they had their druthers, they would much rather have seen American action against the mullahs rather than against Saddam Hussein. As for American Jewish supporters of the war effort, no doubt some thought that taking out Saddam would increase the general security of the Middle East and redound to the benefit of, inter alia, Israel. For that matter, a lot of non-Jewish supporters of the war thought so too. Does that mean that they were primarily motivated by Israel’s concerns and not America? Not exactly, since by an odd coincidence Israel’s enemies-Syria, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah-happen to be America’s enemies as well. (Iran has been waging war on us since the 1979 hostage crisis, and, with Syrian assistance, it has often employed Hezbollah proxies-not only in Lebanon in the 1980s but more recently in Iraq.) It is very hard in the Middle East to disentangle the security concerns of the United States from those of Israel, since both countries are liberal democracies whose interests lie in promoting peace and stability and countering Iran’s bid for regional hegemony.
The notion that only Jews whose first concern is for the security of Israel could possibly favor the invasion of Iraq is laughable. In the first place, as Wehner notes, most of those who supported the invasion of Iraq weren’t Jewish, unless by some miracle 70% of the American population (roughly the percentage that supported the initial operation) has been converted to the Hebraic faith. Moreover, there is not an iota of evidence that any Jews supported the invasion even though they thought it would be detrimental to American security, simply because they thought it would help out Israel-which would have to be the case for the “dual loyalties” smear to have any validity. Why, after all, did Joe Klein, an American Jew, support the invasion? Was he thinking primarily of Israel’s interests? Or did he perhaps think that deposing Saddam Hussein was in America’s interest?
It is equally outrageous to claim that only Jews primarily concerned with Israeli security could possibly favor military action against Iran. I am agnostic on the question of whether we should strike Iran, but anyone who has been to the Middle East lately knows that many Sunni Arabs are secretly hoping that we will do so. They are as worried as Israel about the implications of the “Persians” getting their hands on nuclear weapons, and as desperate for us to do something about it. Israel, of course, has special cause for concern because the leader of Iran keeps making blood-curdling threats to eradiate it. That is of concern not only in Jerusalem but in Washington-and it should be. Threats against our allies are threats against us, and Israel is the closest ally we have in the Middle East.
It is dismaying to see Klein repeat the outrageous anti-Semitic fallacy which holds that any American action which benefits Israel to any degree and with which one disagrees is the product not of legitimate policy calculations but of a Zionist conspiracy. Why do we so seldom hear such accusations made when the U.S. comes to the defense of countries not run by Jews? In the past century, hundreds of thousands of Americans have given their lives to safeguard, among others, France, Britain, South Korea, and South Vietnam. By contrast no American soldiers have lost their lives defending Israel, unless one thinks, as Pat Buchanan and David Duke do, that the Gulf War of 1991 and the Iraq War of 2003 were waged at Israel’s behest.
Did we wage the earlier, costlier wars at the behest of some insidious French, British, Korean or Vietnamese lobby? Actually we have heard such accusations in the past. In the wake of World War I, another unsatisfying conflict, there were many who claimed that the British, “merchants of death,” and the international bankers, with an assist from the international Zionist conspiracy (which we all know is closely aligned with the capitalist conspiracy), bamboozled us into the war. America Firsters in the 1930s picked up the charge and claimed that the only people who wanted us to fight Hitler were British bankers and the Jews.
You don’t hear much talk along those lines these days. It is generally recognized that the United States took part in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War because it thought that doing so would be in its own interest, even if the benefits that accrued to our allies were actually greater. (After all, we saved a number of countries from occupation, whereas there was never a credible threat of enemy armies showing up on our shores.)
Likewise, we are now entangled in Iraq because the president, Congress, and a large majority of the American population thought it was the right thing to do. To blame the current war on “the Jews”-or even to make the more qualified claim that Jewish supporters of the war were compromising American security for Israel’s benefit-is not worthy of a serious publication. Which makes it all the more puzzling that Joe Klein is peddling precisely such rubbish from his perch at Time magazine, and that Andrew Sullivan is endorsing him from his perch at the Atlantic.